Last time I went to Brasserie Zedel’s Crazy Coqs, I was there for Fitzrovia Radio Hour. This time, I was rounding off my day at RegentTweet with Jean Brassard’s homage to Yves Montand, “The Kid from Paris”.
I’ve already described how Brasserie Zedel leaves me longing for the trappings of sophistication and elegance. While I was there this time, because of my involvement with RegentTweet I was thinking a lot about the ways in which our interaction with certain kinds of brands or products influence our feelings about ourselves–you can read about that in my previous post. I realized that every time I am in Brasserie Zedel I want to behave differently from my everyday self–it’s not just like walking into a restaurant, it’s more like walking into a masked ball: I too must play my part. The setting is the backdrop for patrons or audiences to consume, but (for me, at least) it also pulls you into the performance, just watching or eating or drinking is not enough. You must perform to the surroundings as much as they are performing to you.
This is not a feat, I fear, that I generally manage to pull off with much success. In the afternoon I went to a cocktail-mixing masterclass in the Bar Americain, absolute height of suave sophistication, polished bar instruments, and muted gold lighting. The retro airplane wallpaper made me feel as if I were in the first-class lounge of an airport about to depart to far exotic (yet impeccably stylish) lands. Near the end of the masterclass the barman informed us that he often tries to guess what people will order as they make their way to the bar. We naturally challenged him to substantiate this (though, as one of our number pointed out, it was a bit of a giveaway when we all already had drinks to hand.) When he got round to me he put his head to one side and said, “I don’t know. Nesquik? You just look so innocent…” Well. My suave sophistication skills clearly require some further refining.
Anyway. Putting my tender mortified dignity aside, I returned in the evening for “The Kid from Paris.” I have very little experience of Yves Montand’s work and despite the clear loyalty to Montand among the audience, Brassard’s performance was still accessible to a novice. “The Kid from Paris” is a history of Montand’s performing life interspersed with popular songs from his retinue, blending the music with narratives of his famous contemporaries like Edith Piaf, Simone Signoret, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller. There is also a personal element, with Brassard sharing snippets of the role Montand’s music and movies played in his own life and that of his family.
Brassard is a very skilled mime, his movements crisp and evocative, transitioning seamlessly from one scene to another. His physical performance gave the songs a richer resonance. The whole show had an elegant fluidity to it that I really admired, and the musical trio were really top-notch.
Near the end of the show Brassard’s eyes shone with tears as he thanked his parents for introducing him to Montand and for making him into a romantic like them. This was just after he’d played a tune on his father’s accordion, and Brassard stood to demonstrate how his parents used to dance around the living room to Brassard’s songs.
There are moments in life so full of joy and beauty and nostalgia that your heart fills up and your eyes can’t help spilling over a few sparkling tears. This was one of those moments.